Photoessay: Abstracted forms, Chicago

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It is only natural that one is drawn to photographing architecture in what must be the most accessible living history in the world – Chicago has a human scale to it that New York does not, space to stand back and see the progression of styles and evolution of engineering from a couple of centuries back to today, and moreover experience the buildings in a human-scale way. It also has the opposite effect of highlighting the abstraction, and in a way coldness – of today’s architectural forms. I suspect it’s because we no longer build to an accessible scale: we just build to a final desired size. From a building user’s perspective, I’m not sure I like this. The detailing and intimacy of historical structures is gone; I suppose the cost is significantly lower, but sadly this isn’t at all reflected in the current purchase price of apartments. As a photographer however, it does make for some interesting images. This is a slightly shorter phototessay than usual simply because I did not find that many opportunities for the graphic compositions I wanted…until next time! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon, 1.8/55 FE, 1.8/85 Batis and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Images in this set were processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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The Lisbon Masterclass (9-14 Mar 2016) is now open for booking


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. n0nplaces says:

    Very abstract and geometric, I like that. Thank you for sharing !

  2. They are all wonderful photographs, very pleasing!

  3. I love them!

  4. Incredible pictures!

  5. thephotoseye says:

    I love all of these! Really just fabulous!

  6. #6 is amazing. Others as well, but that one stood out for me.

  7. amazing! thx

  8. Martin Fritter says:

    Ah Chicago. I share your affection. Its place in American photographic history is well deserved. Oddly, the permanent photography collection in the Art Institute is not up to their otherwise stellar standards, although they do have a wall of very fine August Sander portraits. In general, their collection is pretty much pre-WWII. Chicago also has fantastic trees. And really great light. But, the weather! Horrible.

    Your last picture, with the Voightlander 180, is especially nice!

  9. Fabulous angles! Love all of these, especially the circular one.

  10. As sure I’ll have my coffee every morning, as sure I’ll have a look here Ming. It’s such a good way to start the day, A joy for the eye and a great stimuli of my photographic endeavor.

    • Thanks Gerner – no coffee for us today but quite an impressive sunrise… 🙂

    • Thing Mein says:

      This “Gerner” persona that you’ve developed is getting a bit tired, Ming. The overzealous, creepy, drooling fan is rather one-dimensional, isn’t it? Maybe you could roll out that fictional mental health professional based in England who writes exactly the same way that you do again. He might have more legs and we can all read his pop-psychology for a laugh.

      • It’s really sad when jealousy develops to a point where delusion takes over what was probably a perfectly good mind. It’s sadder when you’re the only one who thinks real people are fake, and have to resort to a corruption of my name to post under – who’s the fake one now? Saddest still when you let it consume you to the point you are unable to do anything positive and must resort to insulting people to bolster your ego. I’m happy enough being myself to not have to pretend to be somebody else. Are you?

  11. When you’re photographing architecture, do you feel like you’re co-operating with the buildings’ architects?

    • Sometimes – depends on whether the building feels like it’s a positive part of the environment or not; is it making the neighborhood a better place?

  12. These are great. I particular like the 4 building fragments combining with the abstract concrete in the 4th-to-late one.

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